The Medal's Approved, But Just Not Delivered

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Medal's Approved, But Just Not Delivered

Back in March, Congress got a great photo-op when it voted to give the Tuskegee Airmen the Congressional Gold Medal. But not a single one of those medals has been delivered to an approved recipient. According to the Washington Post:

Five months after Congress voted to bestow its highest honor on the Tuskegee Airmen -- pioneering aviators who during World War II broke the color bar banning black pilots in the U.S. military -- the Congressional Gold Medal is still not in their hands.

"Every time you pick up a newspaper, one or two more are gone," said retired Lt. Col. Spann Watson of Westbury, N.Y. "We'd like people who are still living to be able to receive them. I want to get my medal in my hand."

... Of the 994 black aviators who got their training at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama beginning in 1942, 388 are still alive. Last month, Elmore Kennedy, 90, a retired lieutenant colonel who lived in Philadelphia, died of complications of a stroke.

... Congress unanimously approved the medal in recognition of the group's aerial exploits -- its fighter escort pilots never lost a bomber to enemy fire -- as well as their battles against racial discrimination.

The specific holdup seems to be the decision to redesign the face of the medal.

An aide to Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) told the Post, "Everyone wants to get it right." Who knows? By the time the new medal is ready, a few of these vets may still be alive.

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